Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 2: Saddle to Cochetopa Creek

A chorus of birds trilled in the trees above our tent, waking us before 6. We lay in our sleeping bags listening to the sounds of the birds and the wind while we waited for the sun. Yesterday we squared off against the wind as it gusted across the Mesa. Today it seemed to be building toward an uncertain future, gathering dark, threatening clouds. Sure enough, just as we were preparing to emerge from our tent, the wind reached its peak fury and the clouds began pelting our tent with sleet.

Although the storm passed through quickly, it was just a preview of what was to come. Storm after storm passed overhead, bringing rain, sleet, hail, and snow flurries. The sun made brief appearances in between the equally brief storms. Then the clouds would gather, starting the cycle all over again.

We noticed many tracks as we hiked, both in the snow and mud. Elk, deer, coyotes, birds, and other animals had passed through. We also saw a few human tracks: boot prints postholed into shorter sections of snow or steep traverses and rectangular snowshoe prints over long, low angled snowfields.

The snow softened as the day wore on, and I began postholing again. At times I postholed up to my waist, relying on my arms and hiking poles to pull myself out of the snow. Occasionally I crawled across the snow in an effort to spread out my weight. Sometimes I sank anyway. It wasn't pretty. But what we lacked in style we amply made up in sheer grit, tenacity, and determination.

Looking up as I floundered through a deep snowfield, I spotted a pair of elk watching me. Laughingly the elk rose, stretched, then effortlessly loped across a snowy traverse, as if to demonstrate how easy it should be.

The highlight of our day was when we found a series of long, steep snowfields perfect for glissading. I sliced open several fingers on a chunk of ice as I maneuvered my ice axe to slow myself on our first steep glissade. But the next few glissades were on much softer snow, and we laughed and shrieked all the way down, filled with joy at the pure fun of sliding on snow.

Multiple beaver dams line the Cochetopa Creek, which we paralled as we descended into the valley. A bull moose grazed at the edge of the meadow where we finally set up camp. He looked at us warily, then disappeared into the woods. Although we have not seen another human in two days of hiking, I suspect we will have lots of company tonight as moose, elk, and deer return to our meadow to graze.

1 comment:

  1. Can't believe how much Monkey has grown. Being buried to waist or thighs or even knees makes for some seriously challenging hiking. Love the smiles of glissading :)